Acupuncture: Headaches & Migraines
One of the most common reasons
people try acupuncture,
is to help with headaches and migraines.
Headaches affect up to 80% of the UK’s adult population. Symptoms can begin in childhood and are often multifactorial, and 40% of people with headaches have a history of them in the family.
According to the International Headache Society, the term 'tension headache' describes both infrequent and frequent, episodic headaches, as well as the chronic forms of the conditions.
While many medical practitioners tend to deem the headache as a secondary symptom to another condition, the society holds it as a primary condition, meaning that the headaches are a disorder that deserves attention and treatment.
The characteristics of headaches range from mild to severe pain. More severe cases may see sufferers struggle with photophobia or phonophobia (sensitivity to light or noise), nausea and vomiting. The period of time can range from minutes to days.
Common causes include: stress, drinking too much alcohol, bad posture, eyesight problems, not eating regular meals, not drinking enough fluids (dehydration), women having their period or menopause and having a cold or flu.
It is estimated that there are 190,000 migraine attacks experienced every day in England and 6 million people suffer from migraine in the UK.
Migraine is a condition that often causes painful headaches. It can feel like a throbbing headache, usually on one side of the head and can include other symptoms like feeling sick and light sensitivity.
Symptoms may ease with painkillers and nausea medication but often lying down in a dark room may be the only thing that helps.
It's not entirely clear what causes migraines, but they can be triggered by menstrual bleeding, stress, tiredness and certain foods or drinks. You may be able to reduce your migraines by avoiding things that tend to cause them. Eating and sleeping well and regular exercise can also help.
Western Medical Treatment
Traditional treatment for tension headaches, regardless of the conditions regularity and severity, aims to reduce the pain with minimal side effects. Often this comes in the form of prescribed or over-the-counter medications.
How acupuncture can help
While medication can prove useful, in some cases, in others there may be a need for alternative forms of treatment.
Systematic reviews have indicated the benefits that can be gained through adding acupuncture to address the condition. In fact, Sun and Gam (2008) found that acupuncture was more effective than other alternative interventions, and also better than medication, for a mixture of both tension and migraine-type headaches.
The thinking behind acupuncture as a treatment for headaches lies in its ability to stimulate the nervous system, which results in a release of neurochemical messenger molecules that influence the body’s mechanisms to promote a positive physical and emotional well-being. Hui (2010) supports this thinking with research that proves stimulation of certain joints can actually affect the areas of the brain that reduce sensitivity to pain and stress.
Some of the many ways acupuncture can address – and even relieve – tension headaches include:
- Increasing endorphins
- Stimulating nerves in muscles and other tissues
- Reducing inflammation
- Increasing local microcirculation
If you suffer from headaches or migraines and would like to try an alternative treatment to the medication your GP prescribes, then you might like to consider acupuncture.
How does acupuncture work?
Specific diagnostic techniques, such as tongue and pulse diagnosis, abdominal and channel palpation, alongside talking, are used to identify patterns of physiological disruption.
Needles are then used in specific points that stimulate and rectify your mind and body’s normal physiological function.
We also seek to understand the 'root' [běn] 本 cause of the disruption, to ensure that it doesn't simply return once treatment has ceased.